The American Library Association (ALA) recently invited me to contribute a piece about legislative outreach, which was placed in ALA’s magazine, American Libraries. If you would like to read the article, please visit: https://americanlibrariesmagazine.org/blogs/the-scoop/advocating-for-libraries.
At the Idaho Library Association’s annual conference in October, four key legislators participated in a panel discussion to an interested audience of many of you — our amazing Idaho librarians.
Not only did you have great questions and comments for the panelists — Senators Den Hartog and Lee and Representatives McDonald and Wintrow — but you took their messages to heart. One of the prevailing themes was to aggressively and consistently contact your legislators to let them know about the great things you are doing in your library.
As part of that, do not overestimate what legislators know (or understand) about your cause. Be ready to educate them each legislative session, and do so in engaging ways. Legislators are busy people who get a lot of information thrown at them, often about unfamiliar subjects and issues. Make it simple for legislators to absorb — and remember — your library’s story and why it is important to your community and/or our state.
Use your well-honed research skills to find out which senators and representatives have stated goals and interests that best align with the library mission. To find out who your legislators are, visit: https://legislature.idaho.gov/legislators/whosmylegislator.
Finally, tailor your message. Find out which messages are likely to resonate with the people who have control over the purse strings and customize a pitch for each one. And be prepared to share that targeted message anywhere. If you unexpectedly encounter a legislator — maybe in line at your favorite coffee place — introduce yourself and bring up the library.
Advocacy, engagement, outreach, public relations, and good, old-fashioned schmoozing are all components of disseminating the library message to the appropriate audience. And getting that message out has never been more important.
The Idaho Commission for Libraries (ICfL) helps build the capacity of the more than 850 public, school, academic, and special libraries in Idaho to better serve their communities through statewide programming, continuing education, online resources, and building library community. To learn more about the ICfL, explore our site: http://libraries.idaho.gov/.